Walking Day 4 – Portbury To Avonmouth
How Charming You Are, Oh M5!
If you’d asked me a week ago if I thought that I could have not just an ‘ok’ walk along the edge of the M5 – but an excellent one – then I would most definitely have said a big, fat NO! No, no, no and no. But some of the strangest and most unexpected things can be the most memorable experiences.
It’s like when you go out for ‘just one drink’ and land up asking a policeman at 3am to give you a piggyback because your feet hurt from too much dancing. And no officer, that most definitely is not my bra that I’m wearing as a pair of ear muffs….. You know – one of those unexpected nights. This walk was like that except without the policeman or the bra-muffs. And the alcohol. Or the dancing. Ok, it wasn’t exactly like that night but it was still awesome.
We parked up along a little-used track near to where we finished the previous Car Park walk. Actually, right next to where we had one of our Ugly And Strange Picnics. We have a habit of having picnics in the weirdest of places – this one was on top of a lovely concrete road divider, surrounded by fly-tipped rubbish and barbed wire. We excelled ourselves here. But salad still tastes good, no matter where you have it.
We harnessed Dog up and set off back along the cycle path. It was fairly busy and I nearly got run over several times, all of which were entirely my fault. They were Instagram induced fails caused by my attempt to actually take a picture for once. I decided that it’s definitely safer for everyone if I leave the excellent photography to Daddy Pants. He’s better at it, has wider peripheral vision (or at least appears to as he never gets mowed down by cyclists) and has more memory on his phone. My phone flashes up with a ‘not enough memory’ sign about every 3-5 seconds and is therefore almost entirely useless as anything other than a phone – which is, of course, the very last things I actually want to use it for. I glare at it suspiciously if it does actually ring.
Anyhow, we followed the cycle path under a few bridges and to an interesting sculpture of a spanner and a hammer. ‘That’s a weird place to have a statue,’ I remarked. It was a weird place – just at the point where the cycle path bends round to go up towards and over the Avonmouth Bridge. We stopped and looked at it for a while. ‘Stronghold’, it read. ‘To commemorate the strengthening of the Avonmouth Bridge.’ I paused and thought about it for a moment. ‘Why would anyone want to commemorate something that should be fairly intrinsic in the structure of the bridge from the start? Why would a bridge need to be strengthened?’ I wondered – apparently out loud.
‘Oh, some men died up there. I think something snapped and they fell to their death,’ DP replied.
‘Wow, that’s horrible,’ I shivered. Dog cocked his leg on the hammer, clearly unmoved by the story. I tried to shoo him away but I fear it was too late.
We turned up the path that slowly climbed up to the motorway and carefully kept ourselves to the lane marked for pedestrians. Dog was back on the lead and walking like he was being strafed – his usual gait when he’s going somewhere noisy/bridg-y/tall/dark – and we turned the corner and tramped onto the motorway pedestrian/cycle path.
The noise of the M5 hit us like a brick. A great whooshing roar of noise and dust. Dog looked at me suspiciously as he sloped onto the bridge.
‘Mummy,’ he said with his eyes. ‘This is an unacceptable walk. I shall be writing a letter of complaint to my local councillor.’
‘And a sausage,’ DP added. Dog’s pace picked up perceptibly.
The bridge was so exciting to walk across. Not a beautiful or majestic experience, but a very cool one none the less. I stood still to watch the cars zooming past (it was still early in the day and rush hour hadn’t hit yet so there was still the ability for the cars to zoom) and the rumble of the passing cars vibrated right through me. Heavier vehicles made the bridge shake and sway. I can’t say I’ve ever been so close to a speeding lorry in my life and it was a most exhilarating experience – as long as I remembered to hold my breath as they thundered past and not inhale the fumes.
‘Yes,’ we replied. ‘That’s north!’ We pointed over the bridge.
‘Marvellous!’ He replied. ‘It’s hard to tell sometimes,’ he explained as he launched himself to a very slow and lumbering climb over the bridge. He waved goodbye and thank you but I feared for his safety with only one hand guiding the seriously overladen bike. But with a few swerves and wiggles he continued on his journey.
The bridge is really not long (0.1 miles for the bit that goes over the water) but it felt like it took a very long time to get across it. That was mostly because we stopped every 10 metres to take pictures and watch the birds. One of the best things about walking on the bridge was watching the jackdaws (them again!) leaping and taking off from the edge. I’ve never seen a bird take flight from above before and it was really quite wonderful. They leap nonchalantly into the void and hover for a brief moment before the soar downwards, much like old roadrunner cartoons, but without the trauma of hitting the ground.
‘Would you rather be a bird or a mermaid?’ I asked.
‘Oh, a bird for sure! There’s no comparison,’ he said as he snapped away with the camera.
‘I’d really like to be a mermaid. There’s something about being underwater that would be beyond awesome.’
‘And flying wouldn’t be?’ We watched the displays of jackdaws looping, dropping, diving and for the first time in my life I thought that maybe, just maybe, I’d rather be a bird than a mermaid.
And then, ‘Actually, a tail would be cool. A prehensile one that I could use to swing through the trees.’ I wiggled my imaginary tail and felt quite proud of myself. Then a juggernaut of a lorry roared past and the bridge vibrated alarmingly. Dog gave me a ‘Get-me-the-f***-off-this-bridge-look’ and we trotted on.
He waved his tail a little more than he usually did, presumably in a bid to make me jealous. It worked.
Somewhat alarmingly, at this point we found a bit of the bridge ‘mended’ with some hastily applied duct tape. Obviously, the duct tape wasn’t performing any structural function but it made us giggle that it was there at all. Bridges really shouldn’t have duct tape on them. It makes people feel….unsettled.
Coming off the bridge we walked through Avonmouth and to the train station. We had an exciting train station to train station coastal walk planned for the next adventure, so needed to get to the right spot.
On the way back a young jackdaw stood on the steps in front of us and let us pass by him about 50cms away without flying off. ‘Are you injured?’ I asked the bird whilst I entertained fantasies of acquiring a pet jackdaw that I nursed back to health with love, attention and hand feeding.
I had already named him ‘Titan’ and built him a nest that he could come and go to as he pleased in the garden. I would say to people, ‘He doesn’t have to stay but he loves us I think.’ And, ‘Look! He’s got a wife!’ I gazed lovingly at the young jackdaw who cocked his head to one side, sqwarked at me loudly and of course, flew away – missing Daddy Pants by a few small inches. He took my dreams of being a Bird-Earth-Mother with him but I was, of course, delighted that he wasn’t injured.
A quick Geocache and we marched back to the car, happy and complete. We have already seen so many cool things that we wouldn’t have seen unless I had declared that I wanted to do this incredibly bonkers thing. But here we are. Next up – Avonmouth to Severn Beach.